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Turning Back the Clock

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Tactician, Feb 20, 2013.

  1. I've never fully bought into the idea that Asian products are sold on price alone and that low price is due to stealing patents and designs, and cheap labour. Firstly everyone builds new ideas on the back of others. Secondly we are surrounded with clone products (how many Coke clones can you see in a supermarket?). It's hardly stealing, just imitation, and we've had them in Europe a long time, since the Eastern Communist Europe made copies of instruments in the 60s -nobody was fooled they were anything as good as the 'real thing' though. And although labour costs in Asia have been incredibly low - they are on the rise, along with shipping and fuel costs, and addressing health and safety issues.

    Let 's not look backwards - I know a lot of the patent infringements, copying, and design and R&D theft, issues run deep, and in some cases have run companies out of business. But things are changing.

    The components you can buy for any amp or rack are pretty much the same for all manufacturers. The amount of labour one might put into assembling an amp could be the same anywhere in the World - it is down to hourly rates - which actually for a single amp might in fact be a very small part of the final construction costs and - very few amps are actually made by hand with soldering irons and chassis' which is a labour intensive way - low labour costs are probably off set with shipping costs and delays, and long supply chains.

    So are we set for a rediscovery of our home produced amps, basses, racks? I think it is coming soon.

    Most Japanese manufacturers have basses in their ranges that now exceed the prices of many home made products that often have better pedigree and vibe. Even some Chinese brands no longer look really inexpensive. (I don't think $1000 -15000 basses and guitars are cheap) We are seeing the same happening with amps and racks - prices are creeping up whilst nothing is really added to the product in the way of features or quality. It is because of rises in wages, shipping costs, safety costs, property costs. Asia is becoming a more expensive place to manufacuture - and fast.

    Is this the time to make the change and start buying from our home manufacturers again? I know the case for buying locally and why, but the exceptionally low prices in the past have been a mighty persuasive arguement for many buyers. But now I don't have to 'love my neighbour' to do the right thing. I think we have reached the point where we can do the 'right' thing, AND there are good, product, price, and quality reasons to buy from local manufacturers.

    I think the music industry is on the way home again. What do you think?
  2. I think your thread wil be overtaken by political debate and closed down in short order.
  3. Really!? I thought I was being factual with a very hot topic. Eastern costs are rising, western costs are sharpening in the recession, transport costs are rising, prices are leveling out. Time to go back to traditional, tried and tested?

    Just flagging what's happening on the street and changing marketplaces. In fact I said that you didn't have to be politically correct to change your buying habits - its the economy.

    Shame if that's all considered political or bias commentary.
  4. Jerrold Tiers

    Jerrold Tiers

    Nov 14, 2003
    St Louis
    Don't discount the counterfeit aspect.

    We sold millions of dollars of goods in china for several years, mostly PA gear. Then it dried up overnight.

    We found that there were actual counterfeits being made in china.... they were really detailed ones. Even the marks of the US company that made our raw PC boards were on the boards in the counterfeit I saw (their mark was the outline of an arrowpoint). Company name and address marked on unit were our name and address.... brand name, and model numbners were OUR brand and model..... But we never made the thing, and had no chinese production (that we knew about).

    The only ways to tell them apart from our products were that the front panel screens were not quite as good, and the transistors etc were all asian part numbers (2SC XXX and 2SD XXX transistors, instead of 2NXXXX numbers).

    If we had had to prove in court that we didn't make the product (if it were involved in a fire, etc) we would have had a very hard time doing it.

    Turns out the chinese wanted US-made stuff, and when they found out the counterfeits were made in china, they assumed that ALL the products were chinese made, and didn't want them anymore.

    There went 3 or 4 million bucks a year.......

    The products were sold all over asia, so not only were chinese sales squashed, but also sales in Malaysia, India, all that area. Even more money gone.
  5. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    The one fellow up above is probably correct about the thread going political and a Mod will "shut 'er" down.

    Very interesting to me is that if we take into account inflation, a USA made or European made bass or guitar (probably many other things too) actually costs the same or less than it did back in the 50s or 60s.

    As an example, a Fender Custom Shop instrument at $2,500 in today's money is pretty much about the same as a 1962 Fender iinstrument at $290.

    So personally, (and I am not well off) I am somewhat consoled that a quality USA made instrument is just as painful to buy now as it would have been 5 decades ago.

    For the price, it's hard to beat an import made bass but it's always been a fact for any product, for that extra "umph" of quality, it's gonna be expensive! (automobles for an example).

    Welcome to today's world of gobal competition and trading!
  6. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    I don't know why this would go political other that people with no knowledge trying to make it so, or even worse, lack of intellectual judgement tossing out accusations of it being so. Oh wait...it's the internet....LOL
  7. Jim C

    Jim C Is that what you meant to play or is this jazz? Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    Wow; I had no idea that this was happeing in their own country. Very enlightening post Jerrold (as usual).
  8. G-K had their own factory (nothing but G-K products built by people on the G-K payroll) in China for a while. Many of the things the OP said are reasons Gallien moved all of his MB, speaker and cab production back to the US. The savings were no longer there and oversight of the operation was problematic.
  9. will33


    May 22, 2006
    Agedhorse from Genz was nice enough to alert me to counterfeit output transistors for my Tubeworks amp (in the middle of a thread bashing Genz for shutting down Tubeworks no less). He was simply alerting us about buying these things used as a repair in the future could be a big problem as these parts are obsolete. You can find this model of transistor being sold all over the web, but nearly all are counterfeits and their function can not be known for certain.

    Just my little personal experience there with counterfeit parts....which a massively huge black market industry.

    And yes, Asian production costs are rising. GK has already brought production home, though I think more for quality control reasons and not solely cost. Many businesses will be hunting for other nations for cheap labor and lax regulation. Maybe they will find some, maybe it will bite them in the backside, time will tell.
  10. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    If you guys think counterfit transistors are a problem, the next time you have to have a medical procedure you might think about the medications and supplies... that should scare you even more.

    Any business that thinks it's ok to put "cow piss" or melamine into milk to increase test results for protein isn't going to think twice about counterfitting anything.

    Jerrold is accurate is describing how much detail copies can include. Don't forget the owner's manual, warranty card, box, plastic bag with company name, etc. I know that Jerrold's products, Bob Lee's products, and I even discovered one of my older pro audio speaker products copied on this site below. While they MAY show a non-branded badge, rest assured that they sell them with badges and graphics IDENTICAL to the real thing, that they do not use real parts, and the performance is not the same and mostly is very much worse.

    Here is something to get you thinking about how common and acceptable it is:
  11. Question? Where is the final assembly done on Genz-Benz products? It has come up before and I have always wondered?
  12. RS66LB


    Dec 29, 2012
    Your post was actually very good, any political firestorm that comes from it will most likely be from those that can't reason in a normal manner. Thanks for your post and have a great day.
  13. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    In a dedicated ISO-9000 facility in Taiwan for the electronics products. Our products are the only MI/pro audio products they manufacture. Everything else is industrial control electronics. Anything but cheap.
  14. Sounds like Genz-Benz did their homework and the result (obviously) is a high quality product. :D
  15. I repeat, I think we are now getting into a position with wage rises and factory costs in developing countries, that everything else being equal (component prices, distribution costs, routes to market) then the ONLY difference is the small amount of labour (labor) in the product. So if there is a BiG price difference, then it has to come from something else going on with quality, design, reliability, whatever.

    Anyone like to offer up the labour - hours or fractions of an hour - component in the production of an amp. I'd guess it's less than 90 minutes and once you take that difference out what are the big differenciators when the finla product turns out to be something like a half of the price - or even bigger difference!
  16. Jerrold Tiers

    Jerrold Tiers

    Nov 14, 2003
    St Louis
    Most any amplifier has a ratio of about 80% parts and 20% labor in the factory.

    But, the traditional chinese advantage has been "free" labor at EVERY step of production..... That knocks the heck out of parts costs also.

    We could buy an entire amp made over there, for considerably less than the cost of just the parts in the US..... at least at one time. Free labor to mine the ore, free labor to refine it, free labor to build the steel mill, free labor to operate it...... you get the picture..... parts costs were very low.

    Not any more.... nobody wants to work in factories, and pay has risen to make up for that. The chinese are OUTSOURCING to lower cost places..... THAT's a switch.

    between labor, shipping* and other problems, yes quite a bit of production is coming back. Not everything, but a lot of it.

    * back a while, the cost to ship a container was about $2500. At one point with high fuel costs, it was up to $9000. I no longer know what the costs are, but somewhere in between.

    You can fit a LOT of can-openers or Ipods in a container, but not so many 810 cabs..... The shipping costs have to be added to the product, and the fewer there are per container, the more gets added to each one.
  17. In the UK at least there would need to be larger changes, we just don't have much of a manufacturing basis anymore, not to mention the costs are still going to be a fair what higher than else where (thinking transport and materials, not just wages and taxes here). Don't get me wrong, I think it'd be great, just don't know if it'll actually happen!

    As has been touched on here, the issue with the global marketplace is that not everyone sticks to the same set of rules. Patent and copyright protection is practically non-existent in some places, even when they have their own patent offices!
  18. Mr. Foxen

    Mr. Foxen Commercial User

    Jul 24, 2009
    Bristol, UK
    Amp tinkerer at Ampstack
    In my area, of handmade valve amps, from the 70s, its starting to look like rising price of 70s amps is heading toward making it economic to start making amps by hand in the UK again, without having to rely on a reputation established 40 years ago, or making clones of Marshals and Fenders for blues lawyers. A new build valve head is heading to not being that much more than a rebuilt to good as new vintage one. I finally managed to sell a vintage head for about enough to have a new custom head built, so there is step one.

    Thing is, I'm going to be buying most of the parts for the work I do from China, not just because its cheaper, but in part because making the parts isn't even allowed in Europe (valves) and thus far, my experience with dealing with far eastern suppliers has been far better than dealing with European ones. Maybe a bit deliberately ingratiating, but it beats the straight up rude and blaming me for their failures to deliver I get from suppliers I've tried here.

    Interesting other note is the amount of fancy high end vintage bits, mostly the really nice valves people want for hifi, that I end up sending to the east.
  19. mystic38


    Dec 4, 2012
    Mystic CT
    Thats good to hear.. (particularly since i have recently auditioned a streamliner :)

    For all,

    Taiwan as a manufacturing operational site is certainly more modern, capable and expensive proposition than one in China (aka PRC) and has been producing quality products to ISO certification for a couple of decades, including being a fab facility for many of the top 10 semiconductor companies... companies driven by QA #1 then cost (not the other way around.

    So i hope nobody here confuses Taiwan (ROC) with China (PRC) for the purposes of this discussion.

  20. Cirk


    Jan 16, 2011
    Pittsburgh, PA
    One aspect that I find interesting about this is that homebrew / low volume production amps are becoming more common. This is great for innovation, as new perspectives come into the marketplace. Just my .02.

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